Monique Harris reflects training with Team USA, continues to grow

Monique Harris sets up the ball for her teammates. Iowa State went on to beat the Texas Longhorns 3-2 on Nov. 12.

Garrett Kroeger

Last March, Iowa State senior setter Monique Harris took off for Colorado Springs, Colorado, eyeing a spot on the U.S. Collegiate team and United States Women’s Volleyball National Team fold.

After a dominant performance from Harris’ eyes, the clock started. 

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

That clock continued for three-and-a-half weeks until an email came across her computer. The attachment to the email said everything she wanted to hear. 

“I was just like, ‘Oh, Ok…That’s cool.’ ” Harris said.

Harris was selected to train and compete in the U.S. Collegiate National Team-Minneapolis (CNT-Minneapolis) program this past summer.

The Iowa State senior was one of 36 players picked for the program. The CNT-Minneapolis squad, part of U.S. Volleyball’s High Performance, pipeline is considered a second tryout for the U.S. Women’s Volleyball Team, according to USA Volleyball.

During Harris’ time with CNT-Minneapolis, she was one of five setters selected. The others were Olivia Dailey of the University of Kentucky, Ashley Evans of Purdue, Kristyn Nicholson of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Taylor Tashima of Northwestern.

Harris was able to pick the other four setters’ brains and bring back some knowledge to Ames.

“Just different decision techniques and knowing I can take risks,” Harris said. “I’m good enough to make mistakes and move on from them quickly.”

While her time with the collegiate national team helped Harris grow as a player, a lot of what she learned was individual base stuff, which means she has not really shared any of the knowledge she gained this summer with her teammates.

“I kind of felt like it was more individual,” Harris said. “For me, everyone who I played with was amazing, it was really nice learning what I need to do and what I can do in certain situation.

“There are some stuff I have brought back and added to my game. But I haven’t brought back anything to my teammates. It’s more individually.”

Harris was the primary setter for CNT White with CNT-Minneapolis (there were three teams in total: Red, Blue and White).

Harris led CNT White to a 1-1 record in pool play. Against CNT Blue, Harris helped lead White to a 46 kill percent and .283 hitting efficiency. Against CNT Red, Harris helped her squad to a 33 kill percent. Then in the semi-final match, Harris led her team to a 39 kill percent.

“It was amazing,” Harris said. “I learned a lot. I feel like, for me, meeting new people and growing as a person on and off the court and being a better teammate was huge for me.”

Due to Harris being a senior and just fresh off her CNT-Minneapolis experience, she has been a mentor to highly-touted freshman setter, Piper Mauck this season.

“Especially leadership. Being able to be forcible and lead the team,” Mauck said on what Harris has taught her so far. “Be confident in terms of the plays you are running and the balls you are setting.

“She is a good person who sets the bar higher for me. So, if she sets a good ball, I want set a good ball. She is a good leader and pushing me to be my best.”

During Harris’ time at Iowa State, she has grown tremendously as a player according to coach Christy Johnson-Lynch. As a junior in 2016, Harris led the Cyclones with 669 assists (6.76 per game) after playing in 28 matches and 99 sets. She also averaged 1.87 digs a set and finished the season with 25 kills and 14 service aces.

After her experience in Minneapolis, Johnson-Lynch believes Harris has taken her game up another notch to start her senior season.

“I think she learned a lot,” Johnson-Lynch said. “I always think players, almost without exception, comeback from those experiences playing at a higher level because they are surrounded by all these great players and are challenged so much everyday to play their best.”

Through seven matches and 24 sets this season, Harris has assisted on 181 attacks giving her an average of 7.54 assists per game.

While Harris is pleased with her performance early on in her final season at Iowa State, she still wants to improve her game. If she does, Harris hopes that translates to her playing with Team USA once again one day.

“When you play volleyball, it is something you dream of,” Harris said. “It’s that next level up. The next step now is keep training.”